Today I’m going to talk about the number 102. This number doesn’t represent the number of miles I just ran or am about to run, but rather the aggregate of thousands of miles represented by 102 race medals—medals that are on their way to Medals4Mettle for distribution to 102 courageous kids and adults battling an important race of their own.
Medals4Mettle is a nonprofit organization that facilitates the gifting of finishers’ medals to those who are fighting debilitating and life-threatening illnesses. The medals serve as a symbol of courage and endurance.
I heard about Medals4Mettle a couple years ago in an online running forum and was immediately inspired to gather my collection of medals and send them in. Truth be told, I was a little hesitant at first thinking about parting ways with a few of them, particularly my New York City and Boston marathon medals. NYC was my first marathon and I felt a special kinship with it (despite that it had been hanging on door knobs for 20 years). The Boston medals—well, simply because they’re from Boston.
I had just launched my blog and thought donating my medals would be a way to demonstrate the importance of giving back through the sport that has given me so much in return. I knew my medals would result in a smile and a badge of courage for many. It was then that nostalgia for my 23 medals turned into privilege and honor for those who will wear my medal. I have the memories—I don’t need the metal.
Though as tends to happen, I procrastinated; but my procrastination resulted in an additional 79 medals for donation, mostly from the generosity of the Portland running community. Several months ago I shared online I was sending my medals to Medals4Mettle and wanted to add more to the collection. Three people responded to my post—Brie, Kristin, and Aleta—and I’m incredibly grateful for their contributions (a special shoutout to Andrea for offering her race helmets.)
An optional part of donating medals is to include the race story for the recipients. I have 20 years worth of medal memories—and the NYC Marathon is still one of my favorites:
I was living in NYC at the time, very close to Central Park. I ran a lot and completed several 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons. I decided it was time to run a marathon, so I signed up for the 1996 NYC Marathon (dropped the race application in the mail, as there was no online registration). I got in and ran the race with my neighbor. I really new nothing about running or training for a marathon, but went for it anyways. My dad flew out from Portland, OR to cheer me on and I had several friends waiting for me at the finishline—it was a special day. I finished the marathon, but with a very slow time—almost 5 hours (jumping into a McDonalds to use the restroom during the race probably had something to do with it). I was hooked and completed the Dublin, Ireland marathon not soon after with a much speedier time.
I enjoyed writing up my race stories as well as reading through the stories of the ladies who donated medals, and I’m sure they enjoyed reflecting on their past race experiences. I know the medal recipients will find strength, courage, and inspiration in all of our stories.
Medals4Mettle is a volunteer-run organization and according to its website, it does not actively seek out donations; instead its mission is to provide an opportunity for endurance athletes and runners to pay it forward by enabling the gifting and awarding of earned medals to others who demonstrate similar mettle, or courage, as they face life’s challenges.
Inspired? Want to get more involved with Medals4Mettle? Here’s several options:
- Volunteer Chapter Coordinator
- Volunteer (other opportunities)
- Donate medals
- Financial contribution (donations of $25 or more get a free t-shirt)
- Spread the word (M4M is active on social media)
A big thank you to Brie, Kristin, and Aleta (and Aleta’s friends) for the medal donations and to my cousin Tracy for the great photos.